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RICHMOND, Ky. – Eastern Kentucky University defensive end Noah Spence will forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility and enter the 2016 National Football League (NFL) draft.

“After much thought and careful consideration, I have decided that it’s time to turn the page and write the next chapter in my life,” said Spence. “I will be entering the 2016 NFL draft to pursue my life-long dream of playing professional football. I hope to someday use my NFL career as a platform to inspire others and bring positive changes to the community.”

Spence finished fourth in voting for the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year Award. He was also the 2015 OVC Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Earlier this week he was selected to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl in January.

“I would first like to thank God from whom all blessings flow,” Spence said. “I want to thank Eastern Kentucky University, my coaches, especially Coach (Dean) Hood, Coach (Jake) Johnson, my teammates, classmates, and Colonel fans for giving me a second chance. I’m grateful for the opportunity and will always be a proud alumnus of this great university. Graduating from college has been the capstone of a very humbling chapter in my life.”

“Most importantly, I must thank my family for being there for me throughout my entire journey,” Spence added. “I couldn’t have done it without you, and I can’t emphasize enough how much your unconditional love has meant to me. You motivate me, and I want nothing more than to make you proud.”

Spence made an immediate impact after transferring from Ohio State. He finished the season ranked fourth nationally in tackles for a loss (2.0/game), fifth in sacks (1.05/game) and 22nd in forced fumbles per game (0.27).

Overall the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native had 22.5 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks, the fourth-most in EKU single-season history. He also contributed 63 tackles (31 solo), 15 quarterback hurries, forced three fumbles and recovered two fumbles. He had at least one sack in nine of 11 games including 2.5 combined in two games against FBS opponents. His play up front, which included seeing numerous double teams, helped EKU rank 15th nationally in rush defense (111.8 yards per game allowed).

Spence is a redshirt junior and is graduating this weekend.

“I will also forever cherish my time spent at The Ohio State University,” Spence said. “I wish things had turned out differently, but I’ve grown from my mistakes and have become a better person today because of them. Thank you Coach (Urban) Meyer for your ongoing support and direction. Buckeye Nation will always hold a special place in my heart, and I’m truly thankful for your continued support. Go Colonels! And Go Bucks!”

Spence added this quote, attributed to Carl Bard, ‘though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start now and make a brand new ending.’